The US U-17’s had to have a result tonight to have a chance to make it to the knockout round. It wasn’t pretty but the 0-0 draw was enough to get them there. Here’s what I saw and some quick thoughts on the performance.
The first half saw the US once again devoid of attacking prowess. The best chance for the US came from Danny Leyva beating a defender and sending in a cross for Gianluca Busio. Busio’s header went over the bar and the hopes of a deja vu moment from the opening goal against Senegal was lost. While Japan looked calm and collected on the ball, passing it around with ease, the U-17’s struggled to connect and struggled to consistently build rhythm. Still, despite looking more comfortable, Japan created very few chances against a much more conservative US game plan. The US sat back and forced Japan to play through them far more in this match than they did against Senegal on Sunday. So the match went to the break scoreless.
The second half saw the US cede possession to Japan while the US worked hard to defend and keep a clean sheet. In the 73rd minute, Japan looked set to draw in front when they sent in a cross from the right flank that found the head of Japanese striker Yamato Wakatsuki. Chituru Odunze made a spectacular reaction save to deny Japan. Five minutes later, another cross (this one from the left flank) caused danger when a flicked header missed just wide. In the 84th minute the US had their best chance of the match. Following a Japan corner, substitute Gio Reyna raced down the left wing on a counter attack and had a golden opportunity to put the US in front. His effort was saved and the deflection missed just wide. In stoppage time, Odunze was once again called upon to make a sparkling save on Wakatsuki’s effort from the edge of the penalty box. The match would end as a scoreless draw.
What Went Right?
The U-17’s committed far fewer individual mistakes tonight. The US also defended as a unit much better in this match. This Japan squad dominated Holland on Sunday and were the better team today, but the US shut them out with a stronger and largely alert defense. Nico Carrera and George Bello were each upgrades in the starting lineup and Odunze put in a heck of a performance in goal. Kobe Hernández-Foster continued his excellence even while he’s being played out of position at centerback. On top of that, Leyva and Adam Saldaña each worked hard to help out defensively. Ethan Dobbelaere looked to be the most dangerous player going forward for the US.
What Went Wrong?
The US still struggled to create offense. There were very few quality chances created in this match in any situation. If they were going to play conservatively, they at least needed to be able to punish Japan on the counter. Too many times there was space to counter but no one there to provide an outlet. The late Gio Reyna chance was really the only iteration where they created real danger on the counter and that was almost entirely a one-man counter. The passing and combination play was not clean and the technical deficiencies of the players compared to their Japanese counterparts was noticeable.
The U-17’s have everything to play for on Saturday night against Holland (7 PM ET on FS2). Senegal beat the Netherlands, so the US is now in third place in the group. A win on Sunday against the Dutch almost certainly advances the US to the knockout stage.
Hit the comment section to discuss the performance and who stood out for you.